Life is a matter of choice

By Henrylito D. Tacio


“Life is currently described in one of four ways: as a journey, as a battle, as a pilgrimage, and as a race. Select your own metaphor, but the finishing necessity is all the same. If life is a journey, it must be completed. If life is a battle, it must be finished. If life is a pilgrimage, it must be concluded. And if it is a race, it must be won.”


The statement, spoken by J. Richard Sneed, came to my mind while reading an e-mail sent to me by a friend.  It’s a short anecdote but it tells more about life and our choices.  I have modified a little bit but read the story, anyway:


A week before their college graduation, seven friends went to the office of their professor and talked with him. “Sir,” one of them said, “is it possible if eight years from now we will meet in your house and have a reunion?”


The professor answered affirmatively. Several years passed and the seven friends became very successful in their chosen fields. Jonathan is now heading his own business firm in Makati, Philippines. Rudy is a highly respected forester working in a United Nations agency in Rome, Italy. Gary has a flourishing career as a consultant in Bangkok, Thailand. Anselmo is a renowned physician in Cebu City, Philippines.


The three others – Carlos, Rodel, and James – are all engineers working in other parts of the world: Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and Canada, respectively.


Eight years later, all seven got together at their professor’s house. Talk, talk, talk, and more talk.   Soon, conversation turned into complaints about stress in work and life.


Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups – porcelain, plastic, glass, some plain looking and some expensive and exquisite, telling them to help themselves to hot coffee.


When all the seven friends had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said: “If you noticed, all the nice looking, expensive cups were taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones.  It is but normal for you to want only the best for yourselves.  And that is the source of your problems and stress. What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but you consciously went for the better cups and are eyeing each other’s cups.”


The professor continued: “Now, if life is coffee, then the jobs, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain life, but the quality of life doesn’t change. Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee in it.”


Biology defines life as “the metabolic activity of protoplasm.”  But there are times when it seems even worse than that.  After all, life can be compared to that of a grindstone.  Whether it grinds a man down or polishes him depends upon the kind of stuff he is made of.


If you will die today, will people remember you?  And if they do, what kind of life they would remember?  One morning in 1888, Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, who had amassed a fortune manufacturing and selling weapons of destruction, awoke to read his own obituary in the newspaper.  (Actually, it was his brother who had died, but a reporter mistakenly wrote Alfred’s obituary.)


For the first time, Alfred saw himself as the world saw him: “the dynamite king” and nothing more.  Nothing was mentioned about his efforts at breaking down barriers between people and ideas.  He was simply a merchant of death, and he would be remembered for that alone.


Alfred was horrified.  He determined that the world would know the true purpose of his life. So, he wrote his last will and testament and left his fortune to establish the most coveted of all prizes: the Nobel Prize.  Now, the world has forgotten his dynamite legacy.


“The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it,” Charles Mayes reminded.  “Life is what happens to you while you making other plans,” Robert Balzer pointed out.


Don’t worry about the struggles you will encounter in your daily living.  Florence Nightingale gives us this explanation: “Life is a hard fight, a struggle, a wresting with the principles of evil, hand to hand, foot to foot.  Every inch of the way is disputed.  The night is given us to take break, to pray, to drink deep at the fountain of power.  The day, to use the strength which has been given us, to go forth to work with it till the evening.”


Life is a matter of choice.  There are always two sides of a coin.  Left and right.  Good and bad.  Beautiful and ugly.  Rich and poor.  Each of us is given to be what we want to be.  Life is a lot like tennis – the one who can serve best seldom loses.


In ancient times, a king had a boulder placed on a roadway.  Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock.  Some of the king’s wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it.  Many loudly blamed the
king for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the stone out of the way.

Then a farmer came along carrying a load of vegetables.  Upon approaching the boulder, the
farmer laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road.  After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded.  After the farmer picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been.  The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the king indicating that the gold was for the
person who removed the boulder from the roadway.  


The farmer learned what many of us never understand! Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our condition.

For comments, write me at


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